Theosophical University Press Online Edition
It is the Third Branch of it that will be related now, and the name of this one is:
The Coming of Ab Cilcoed, and the Three Trials of Pwyll Pen Annwn
I. The Forge of the Immortals
II. The Hosting of the Armies of Malen Ruddgoch Ren
III. The Machinations of Ceridwen Ferch Hu, and the Falling of the Sorrow of the Dimetians
IV. The Councils of the Immortals, and the Declaration of the Fates of the Princes of Dyfed
I. THE FORGE OF THE IMMORTALS
In the seven cantrefs of Dyfed there was little but delight, and prosperity, and advantage for every one, during the year after Rhianon's coming there. Indeed, it was well known that she was without her equal, or nearly her equal, either for beauty or for wisdom, for nobility or for kindness, in the Three Islands of the Mighty, or in the Three Islands near thereto, or in the Island of Ireland, or in the length and width of the whole world, so far as was known; wonderful was her renown, and her glory, and the songs that were made in her praise; and none of it equal to her deserts. Complete was Pwyll in delight and favor and well-being. As for the Dimetians, she never abated her proud, sweet friendliness towards them. Unless it were Madog Crintach, or Deiniol Drwg, or Catwg Gwaeth, or Gwaylltyn Gwaethaf Oll (they were men of the east that had come into Dyfed when they were children for fosterage, and had remained there, and acquired wealth; little good was spoken of them), there were none that were without help from her, and profit by her counsels. Never had her countenance shown less than delight, and glory, and radiant gaiety of aspect since the day the queenhood was bestowed upon her.
A year passed, and on the morning after it, it was clear to Pwyll Pen Annwn that there was sternness on the queen, and a certain gravity of mind. He asked her what would be the cause of it.
"If there is gravity," said she, "it is on account of Llwyd the son of Cilcoed from the region of Uffern. Were there any one that could keep him out of Dyfed this day, the land would be safe from him for another year. But he will be making trial to get in, and that between noon and sunset; and it will not be easy to prevent him."
"What would the one do, that would spoil the trial for him?" said Pwyll.
"He would ride as far as Gorsedd Arberth, and take his place on the throne there; and let no one else come near the throne till the sun was gone from the sky," said she. "He would maintain silence from the time of his setting out until the time of his returning, and heed nothing that might be said to him, either on the Gorsedd or on the way."
"As much as that I will do gladly," said Pwyll. "If there is any spoiling his trial, I will spoil it."
With that, he had them saddle Blodwen, and bring her into the courtyard. He looked at every nail in the four shoes on her four hoofs, and there was not one either loose or wanting. He examined every strap and fastening of the saddle, and the whole of the purple saddle-cloth, and the apples of gold at its four corners; there was nothing about them that was less than perfect. He went forward, taking the road towards the Gorsedd. Hardly had he ridden half the distance, when the shoe of the right forehoof was gone from the mare. He dismounted and tied her by the roadside: walking quickly, he would come before noon to the place where he desired to be. While he was tying Blodwen, he heard the clink of hammer on anvil from beyond the bend of the road. "It would be better to have her shod," he thought; not considering that he had known of no smithy there until then. He untied her, and led her forward. On the left of the road, when he had passed the bend, he saw the smithy; it had no appearance of newness with it. It was a wonder that he should have passed the place not three days since, and taken no note of it. There was a yoke of oxen standing in front of the forge, and with them a tall, white-bearded Ploughman — ploughman or not, clearly he had the dignity of kings and druids with him. Then Pwyll remembered the morning when he rode out after apples to the Orchard of Celyddon, and the beating of the rain upon him, and a white, running glimmer through the rain. There was no knowing why such memories should be taking his mind, at that time; he had seen no ploughman at Celyddon, so far as was known to him.
He heard conversation between the Ploughman and the one that was in the smithy; like this it was:
"Is the fire white in its heart with you?" said the Ploughman. "Is the iron of the right color, neither so bright as to be white, nor so dull as to be black or brown or gray?"
"White is the fire, and red is the metal," said the other. "There is nothing lacking, so far as is known."
"Well, well," said the Ploughman; "it is the day for the trial." He turned as he spoke, catching the eyes of Pwyll for a moment before he went on his way, driving the oxen. Never had it chanced to the chieftain of the Dimetians to know anything equal to the sad majesty of his gaze, as if all the sorrow in a thousand dark stars were known to him; as if he had been waiting for something desired and hoped for since the Shouting of the Name. He gave Pwyll no word of greeting, but turned again, and went on down the road, singing strangely and quietly to the oxen.
The Smith came out from the forge, and took the bridle from the king's hand without either of them speaking. He was a tall, handsome, black-haired, blue-eyed, fair-skinned man, and no better known to Pwyll than the Ploughman had been. It would be some king, perhaps, out of the north or out of Lloegr, and he doing smith-service for one of the Immortals; there would be nothing strange in that. There was an oak of a hundred limbs on the other side of the road; Pwyll took his stand by the bank at its foot, waiting; and his mind running out to Gorsedd Arberth, and to the peril of Dyfed from Llwyd ab Cilcoed. Who this Llwyd might be, he had not heard; the fullest tidings he had of him, was that he came from the regions of Uffern. It would have been unfitting for him to have made inquiries of Rhianon; and she with the concern only that he should go forward and hold the Gorsedd.
The sound of the hammer on the anvil called him from his musings; barely had the seven blows been struck, when it became clear to him that the Smith was knocking out a music unlike anything he had heard during his life. The sound grew and was multiplied wonderfully upon him; it took strange rhythms, and raised up innumerable echoes along the rim of the world, like far thunder rolling among the mountains, or the boom of the billows on the cliffs, or the roaring of all the flooded torrents of the wilds. The sparks flew faster and faster; wandering showers of them playing and quivering through the sun-flecked leafage, driving out across the road, and falling about him on this side and on that. It might have been with the twentieth blow, that it happened to a spark to fall into his right eye; instead of pain and burning, it became sharp, swift vision with him for an instant into the illimitable secrecy of things. For an instant he saw that, the like of which not many will have to see, while their bodies and mortality may still be encumbering them.
It was as if a wind blew out of the immortal regions, sweeping away the road and the tree and the little white-washed smithy; sweeping away the sunlight and the blueness of the sky, and the Dimetian hills, and the glory of the morning; and sowing over leagues upon leagues a great confusion of darkness, a whirling red glare; in the midst of it, what seemed to be the crimson and fiery sun, when he goes down amid heaped cloudbanks of purple; and by that again, One that had the stature of the poplar, the splendor of the sunset and the dawn. But before there was so much as telling what colors might be in his raiment, the whole glow and vision was caught up in a whirl of smoke, and blown away; and there was the smithy again, and the Smith, and the anvil, as they had been before. It was a cause of marveling with Pwyll Pen Annwn.
"Soul," said the Smith; "not many will attain entering into this smithy. To please the Ploughman of these Islands it is permitted to you."
Then Pwyll knew that it was Hu Gadarn was the Ploughman he had seen on the road; and with him the Exalted Oxen, Nynnio and Peibio, that had been kings of the world before they were changed into ploughing-beasts for their querulous and battle-eager pride. He made no answer, at that time. "Although I was warned against conversation," thought he, "it would not have been the conversation of the Immortals." Keen was his desire to learn what forge it was, and who was the Smith that was swinging the hammer in it.
"Did you not learn that?" said the other, hearing the question without language having been put to it. "It is a marvel to me that a man should come to Pen Gannion, and be without knowledge or recognition of the place. Behold now the splendor of it," said he.
With that he smote, not sparks, but one great brilliance of flame out of the iron; and with its waning, road and sky and tree and smithy were gone again, and the aspect of a mortal fell from the Smith, and he stood revealed in all his grand stature and beauty, towering over the king, in the glare and gloom of a huge, unearthly region. Pwyll knew then that it would be Gofannon the King-Smith that he was; that Son of Don, on whose anvils on the Headland of Gannion swords are forged for the Immortals, for their warfare with the demon races. Glorious he was, beyond the finding of any likeness for him; shadowy light and bright darkness played about his form and his visage, grape-purple and of the color of the deepest roses. There was a spear in his hand that seemed to have flame running and rippling through it; its head glowed and shone until it was the greatest light in the world. What had seemed, in Pwyll's first glimpse of vision, to be the setting sun amidst clouds, was made known now for an anvil of intense glory. A hall of innumerable forges extended on all sides, filled with shadowy and gigantic toilers, and with the sound of innumerable titanic hammers, beating upon such anvils as might be used for the shaping of mountains. All was lurid gloom, immense darkness and sudden glare; as for roof or walls, there was no sign of either of them; only blackness, and sudden ruddy startings up of flame afar, or sudden deepening and blooming out of crimson glory over a vastness wider than the sky. It seemed to Pwyll that if two armies had been in that hall, neither of them less in number than the army of the king of London, when hosting is made of the whole of the men of the Island of the Mighty; and both of them eager for battle, and vehemently desirous of winning fame and renown and glory out of the ones that were opposed to them; and either skilfully led, with proud, experienced sovereign rulers at the head of them, and such guides as might be the best in the world, and no less good in an unknown land than in the lands in which they were born; it seemed to him that they might wander for a thousand years, seeking, and never finding their opponents; that they might pass each other near at hand, and be unaware of it; passing, and attaining no end nor goal for their wanderings; so vast it was; and so great the fume, and tumult, and confusion, and bewilderment of momentary crimson-breasted clouds, and dark Armaments unkindled by a star; and again, of fountains of sparks arising, more countless, as it seemed to him, than the multitudes of stars in the Castle of Gwydion, in the Milky Way.
Said Gofannon: "What gift will you take from the Forge of the Immortals? No one goes from the Headland of Gannion," said he, "without labor accomplished for him; much less if it is by the favor of Hu Gadarn that he came in."
From close at Pwyll's hand, a whinny came through the gloom. He turned, and reached out, and took Blodwen by the bridle, and led her forward into the glare of the anvil, and pointed to her shoeless hoof.
Gofannon laughed. "Here is one come to Pen Gannion for the shoeing of a mare," he cried. "Here is one that is going against Llwyd ab Cilcoed, and no desire on him for such a weapon as might win him success."
The laughter of millions of giants rang out and swayed and rocked through the hall. "Let the gifts be shown to him, that he may make a wiser choosing," said Gofannon.
He saw the giants moving through the gloom; suddenly in the midst of them sprang into light a thousand spears, equal in glory to the spear of Gofannon himself. The sight of them drove the feeling of mortality from Pwyll's limbs. Out of the thousand, one shone pre-eminent; it was clear that that one, if there were a foe before it anywhere in the world, would not rest in the hand that might be holding it, but would strain, and writhe, and struggle, and loose itself irresistibly, and make pursuit of its aim through the night and the day, and have no peace nor satisfaction until he were slain, and itself returned to the hand of its master. "Ah heaven," thought Pwyll; "Llwyd would have little power, whoever he may be, against the man that had a spear like that one."
"Is it spears you desire?" said Gofannon.
Once more Blodwen whinnied, and the king's mind went back to the behests and desires of Rhianon, and the watching on Gorsedd Arberth from noon to sunset, and the maintaining of silence both going and returning. He pointed down at the right forehoof, that was shoeless; and shook his head against accepting spears.
"Let the shields be made known to him," said Gofannon.
With that, the middle air was brilliant beyond noonlight with what seemed to be the flashing forth of a thousand suns. When he looked at their bright glory, strength and piercing vision flowed into him through his eyes, and he was filled with the whole joy and magnanimity of the world. It was a marvel that even Gods should have been able to look at those shields; yet Pwyll beheld them without winking an eye-lid. One of them rose up, and beamed so proudly forth that the rest grew pale.
"Let trial be made of that one," cried Gofannon ab Don.
The spears came flying from every part of the firmament; like the roar of a burning pine forest was the noise of their passage through the air. Wherever they flew, the Shield took them, and quenched them, and splintered them in pieces. The clamor of their smiting on it made the sound of the hammers on the anvils seem quietness and peace. Then boulders hurtled through the air; no more than nine of them, heaped together, would have been needed to make a mountain equal to the Wyddfa. They crashed upon the Shield, and fell; at the end there was neither dint nor scratch on its beautiful surface. "By heaven," thought Pwyll, "if one had a shield such as that one —"
"Is it the shield you will take?" said the King-Smith. "It would be the protection of Dyfed from Llwyd ab Cilcoed — "
The words were between his tongue and his teeth to take it, and give praise and gratitude for it; when he felt Blodwen nuzzling and caressing his hand again. He shook his head against the Shield, and pointed to the right forehoof, the shoeless one. Yet, "In my deed, true it is that little could be done against such a weapon," thought he.
"There is no end to his ambitions," said Gofannon. "He will have neither spear nor shield, though the Gods covet them. Make the swords known to him."
They did so; and whatever might be thought of the spears or the shields, however excellent they were, and beyond human imagining; compared with the swords they seemed little better than the wooden toys of a child. It was as if the whole herd of the lightnings of heaven were let loose in the upper air; indeed, if they had been, their glory would have been contemptible beside the glory of those swords. The sight of them kindled in Pwyll's mind, and caused such ardor and loftiness of soul to flame up in him, that it seemed to him that he would have attained suddenly the stature of the well-grown poplar, the firmness of the mountains. "Make trial of the swords," said Gofannon ab Don. Then they uplifted the shields again, and those that had the swords smote with them upon the shields; and the shields, in spite of the wonders that they were, were easily destroyed. Pwyll marveled; he took no thought for the requests of Rhianon; he forgot Gorsedd Arberth; it was the same to him as if he had heard no rumor of the son of Cilcoed from the time his life began.
"Is it a sword you desire?" said Gofannon.
"By heaven, it is a sword," said Pwyll. "They never had their equals under the stars."
"Let a sword be forged for him," cried the son of Don.
"Let a new sword be forged swiftly for this prince of the Cymry of lofty desires. It is unfitting that an old and outworn weapon should be foisted upon him." He robed himself in shadow as he spoke. Then Pwyll heard a great stir, and the whole tumult grew into the sound of one hammer smiting on one unseen anvil. Eagerly he waited; this would be a weapon for him against Llwyd ab Cilcoed; Rhianon would glory in this. Against Llwyd? Indeed, against all the demons; the Island of the Mighty at least should be made free from evil now. It was fitting that since one of the Immortals had taken queenhood there, the man that was reigning at her side should have a blade from Pen Gannion, to work her will with it throughout the world. This was a marvelous honor that Hu Gadarn was doing him; it would be as much as choosing him for champion of the Immortal Kindred. Thunder upon thunder upon thunder of the hammer on the anvil; sunset upon sunset upon sunset where the glory of the upleaping flame reddened on the vastness between the floor and the rafter beams. The Gods had seen to it that when he held the Gorsedd, he should be fittingly armed to meet Abred let loose, the whole multitude of the following of Cythraul. . . . Thunder upon thunder upon ringing, clanging, resounding, booming, far-rolling thunder . . . and now silence, and the waning of the red glow on the upper and middle air. Suddenly a sword flashed forth there, held in some vast shadowy hand. He remembered the thousand swords that had been revealed to him; contemptible they seemed, and unworthy of notice, and such as would betray their wielder upon the field of conflict, in comparison with this one.
It flew forth, as if of its own will, until Gofannon was holding it. He lifted it suddenly, and swung it against the anvil that was before him; and he himself in a half darkness, not clearly visible. A million lightnings broke loose and fled and quivered into the far gloom. The sword was shivered into ten million fragments, and was strewn like hailstones over the immensity of the floor.
"A miserable weapon, truly," cried the King-Smith. "It would be an insult to offer the like of it to this warlike prince of the kindred of the Cymry. Let a better smith take better steel, and let a weapon be forged that may be called a sword, and that will be worthy of the man that will swing it in battle."
Again the clang of the hammer, a grand music as if of bells, not without ringing, martial, vibrant sweetness. Such a sword as the last one would have been equal to all victories; it might have overcome Gods and Dragons without boasting. As for this one that was being forged now, the thought of it was wild delight, a tumult of flaming glory in his heart and in his imagination. Peal after peal of the ringing clangor; what hammer was this that could so fill the world with unearthly music? What anvil that could strew such beauty over the dark void of the air? At last it was forged, this new sword also; and flamed forth upon wings as the first had done, and Gofannon caught it by the hilt as it flew. He smote the anvil with it, and clove the iron anvil in two. Then he put the point of it on the flagstones, and set his foot on the blade, and exerted his strength against it three times, and broke it contemptuously. "Ah," he said; "it was better than the other; but it was a paltry, miserable weapon. Only myself will be equal to forging a sword for this haughty sovereign of the Cymry."
Then he stood forth in such glory that it seemed to Pwyll he had not seen him at all, but only some shadowy vagueness of him, until then. There is no poplar in the world, or pine-tree in the heart of its forest, or sheltered between mountains where no wind can bend it, that would be the equal, or nearly the equal of him in stature. A dark blue mantle was on him, fastened over his heart with a brooch, the size of a shield, of living opal, sapphire and amethyst; the mantle had the appearance of the firmament on a night of stars, but the lights overstrewn on it were lovelier than the stars of a cloudless midnight in August, when no moon may be shining. He flung back the mantle over his shoulders, revealing the beauty of his being. Evil upon the world, if his very corporeal frame were not of purple and rose-dark fires, of gloom and glow and glory and mystery. Such beauty dawned upon his face, and upon the coal-black, purple-shadowed bloom and luster of his hair, as may not be seen among the mountains, at sunrise or at sunset, at dark midnight or at bright noon.
Then it seemed as if the whole darkness of the world had died. As far as Pwyll could see, from the north to the south before him the whole hall burned up into a bright, beautiful rose, an intense vortex of flame; and in the midst of it, an anvil vaster than the mountains; vaster, heaven knows, than huge, five-peaked Pumlumon, or the god-sheltering Wyddfa, or Cadair Idris of the Druid of the Stars. Beside it stood the King-Smith radiant, fire visibly rippling through his bare arms and his breast. On the anvil there was that which glowed in the glow, and was brighter and more intense than the flame; beating on it, a hammer that might well have crushed the world in its falling. The sound of every blow that fell was the equal of all music, the dispelling of all sorrow, the rousing up, in the heart of whomsoever might attain hearing it, of the whole heroism of the world. Not one thought was in Pwyll's mind as he watched the forging, as he watched the sword take shape, as he saw the immortal King-Smith hold it up gloriously in the air. It was a hard gap of brightness in the intense glow that filled the hall; it was a long gleam of sudden and surprising light. No one but a God could have dared to touch it; but it seemed to Pwyll that it would not be too great for him.
"As for making trial of it, let the boulders be thrown," said Gofannon. Again the great granite masses came hurtling through the air, and a marvel such as this was to be seen: the sword take one of them after the other, and sweep through it easily. Then the King-Smith turned with it towards the great anvil, and clove that, so that it fell out in two equal pieces to the left and the right. Then he put the point on the flagstone at his feet, and bent the blade, and trod on it, and exerted his strength seven times; it flew out, straight and gleaming again, the moment he lifted his foot; no power in the world could injure it. "It is a sword of the right forging," he said. "No one could accuse it of any fault. The one that has a right to it, let him take it; nothing would prevent its flying to its rightful lord." Not until then had there been sternness or sorrow in his voice. He let loose the sword. The hall rocked and trembled; its glory of fires died. Great wonder-lightnings of wings burst from the sword-blade, flashing out from end to end of the darkness. Was it Hu or some other God that shone for a moment, severe of aspect, in the far, somber gloom? Away with the sword, winging and singing terribly through the air, towards that stern momentary figure; and sword and God were lost in darkness, more swiftly than the lightning reaches its home.
Then Pwyll remembered the counsels of Rhianon, and his loss and heedlessness were made clear to him. The immensity of the hall was gone; the unearthly gloom and brilliance had become sunlight and shadow; the clamor of immortal hammers gave place to the beating of the last nail into the horseshoe, and to the rustling of a soft wind in the leaves and branches of the oak. . . . His loss and heedlessness were made clear to him. . . . He looked up at the sun; its was within a few minutes of its noon.
"Ah," said the Smith — and no likeness of godhood on him then — "it is a pity, truly, for any one to enter Pen Gannion without advice. Time will stand still for the man that is silent there; there is no peril for the one without desire. But often hours are squandered as soon as the lips may be framed for speech; and often there will be the desiring the Sword of the Gods, and the claiming it, by those who have no right to more than to be on Gorsedd Arberth before noon."
"True it is," said Pwyll. "Upon me let the sorrow fall." He rode forward towards the Gorsedd sorrowfully, as swiftly as he might.
He came to the stile at the foot of the hill a little after it was noon. A small cloud was blown across the heavens on to the hilltop, hiding the throne for a moment before it passed on and darkened the whole sky. As he made his way up the hill, he met a man coming down; it was Madog Crintach from the east of the world. If there was a hard curmudgeon of a man in the Island of the Mighty in those days, it was that Madog; and it was for that reason that the name of Crintach was given him.
Pwyll watched on the Gorsedd until dusk; but it was in his mind that little good would come of the watching. The whole green land of Dyfed, as he looked out over it, had an aspect unlike any that he had seen on it before; even the bees that sought the blossoms on the hilltop, had a certain sound of mourning and heaviness in the music of their wings. He saw no marvel, and met with no blows or violence. In the evening he returned to Arberth. He heard no singing as he passed through the town; no joyful barking greeted him at the gates of the palace. When he went into the feasting-hall with the courtiers and the guests, he saw that a third part of the light and music there was gone. Aden Lonach, indeed, and Aden Fwynach, were shedding their delicate splendor from among the rafters; but there was no sign of Aden Lanach, the eldest of those three lovely ones, the white one of the Singers of Peace. In silence and a strange gloom, the feast went on to its ending.
"Soul," said Pwyll to Rhianon, "because of me this sorrow hath fallen."
"It is known," said she, "both to you and to me." Then she said: "Useless would be reproaches and finding fault. It would have been better to have desired to be on the Gorsedd."
"What evil will have come of this?"
"Llwyd ab Cilcoed has come in; it will be hard to preserve the Dimetians from molestation by him. Already has he been empowered to steal Aden Lanach, and there will be no recovering her, except by your son and mine, when he is grown a man. There was one upon the throne on Gorsedd Arberth at noon, of a shriveled, twisted and sidelong nature; and he escaped not without blows and violence; and he had them from Llwyd ab Cilcoed, whose coming into Dyfed he brought about by his being upon the Gorsedd."
"It was the Crintach from the east of the world," said Pwyll. "It would have been better to have driven him forth when he was a child —"
"It would not have been better," said she; "even though the like of him should be the cause of evil. It would have been ungenerosity, and inhospitable unkindness, and the bringing in of a niggardly spirit among the princes of the Cymry, and the corruption of the virtue of the sovereign rulers of this island."
"That is true," said he. "Is there nothing that I can do to requite you for this evil?"
"There is nothing," she said; "until the time may come for doing it."
II. THE HOSTING OF THE ARMIES OF MALEN RUDDGOCH REN
It happened to many of the Dimetians to desire to take their place on the throne on Gorsedd Arberth in those days; and it was permitted to them to take it. Until Llwyd came in, it would be rare for any one to go there without seeing his wonder; his eyes would be gifted with vision there, so that he would become aware of the passing of some god through the evening; or he would hear Plenydd harping in the sun at noon. Until then, it was the best of men that had had the desire to go there; and if they were good men before their going, they were much better after it; as would be natural, after seeing and maybe holding converse with the Compassionate Family. But from the coming in of Ab Cilcoed it was the worst that would be braving Gorsedd Arberth most; and blows and violence would be the commonest fate for them. There might have been no harm in that, but that, as the story relates, whoever encountered the blows and violence, no one would get good from him after. It was the souring and embittering of minds. They had gone up for the sake of the wonder, considering they had a right to see whatever another might have seen; and envy took them that they should be held of less account. So there grew up sorrow and ill will, little known theretofore among the kindred of the Cymry; and none knowing that behind it were the quiet workings and incitements of Ab Cilcoed, except Rhianon; and she opposing him as well as she could. Indeed, Pwyll too knew a little of it; and there is no telling what Gwawl ab Clud may have known.
A year and a day passed; and again there was anxious gravity to be seen with the princess. "Soul," said Pwyll, "for the sake of heaven and man, what will be the cause of the gravity? Nothing could be more desirable to me than to lighten this."
"Gravity there is," said she. "It is the day on which the son of Cilcoed has his power, and that will be the reason for it. It is the day he will be seeking to bring his men into Dyfed. If Madog or Deiniol, or Catwg or Gwylltyn, should be on the throne on Gorsedd Arberth between noon and sunset this day, undoubtedly it would be the empowering Llwyd to bring in his armies."
"Ah," said Pwyll; "I will hold the throne."
He rode forward through the gray morning, and came to the Valley of Gorsedd Arberth without meeting any one. In the field below the road at the head of the valley there was a man ploughing; Pwyll heard voices there, and turning his head, saw the Ploughman, and a woman talking with him. It seemed to him that they were very proud and kingly of mien, for a countryman and his wife; but he paid little heed to them, his mind being full of watching on the Gorsedd, and of a certain joy that he would be able to do something against Ab Cilcoed that day, after his failure a year before. But he heard this much from them as he passed:
"It would be an evil thing if there should be success with us, where none may be desired," said the woman.
"True is that," said the Ploughman; "but this is the day, and there is no escaping it. Let the trial be made, if the men and the horses are in readiness; there would be no attainment nor advantage without it."
"Everything is in readiness," said she. "What has been designed shall be accomplished, and may good come of it."
"Yes, yes," said he. "Good will come; at long last good will come."
Pwyll rode on and took his place on the throne an hour before noon. By midday he saw smoke rising on the edge of the sky eastward, first in one place, then in many. As he watched, slowly the smoke columns became more numerous, and rose from places nearer and nearer. Far off he could see herds driven down into the road from the mountains, and taking their way then towards the Gorsedd and towards Arberth. Carts and wagons began to gather there, too, with country people, women and children; and little crowds of people on foot; and all hurrying westward. There came a horseman thundering along the road at full gallop; as he passed the stile, he looked up, and saw who it was that was on the throne. He reined in his horse quickly and dismounted, and ran swiftly up the hillside.
"Lord," said he; "the greatest host in the world has come up out of Morganwg, and the eastern commotes are laid waste by them."
Would this be the way that Llwyd was bringing his hosts into Dyfed? Pwyll made no answer, nor stirred out of the throne. He waved the man away, pointing towards Arberth.
"The Dimetians are not hosted," said the man; and wonder in his voice as he said it. Again Pwyll pointed towards the city, and motioned to him that he should go.
He turned, and went grumbling. "I will take the news to Pendaran, since there is no help for us with the rightful chieftain. Or I will take it to Catwg and Deiniol; by heaven, there are still men that will not abhor fighting. An evil thing, truly, is this marrying with the unhuman clans." He mounted at the stile, and rode forward towards Arberth. Pwyll saw him turn, and look back towards himself where he was throned, and hatred and open disloyalty on his face. During his life he had not heard, until then, of any disloyalty towards a sovereign ruler in the whole of the Islands of the Mighty.
The countrymen and their herds began to pass, a long stream of them; the women and children to take refuge in the city, the men to join the hosting of the Dimetians that would be going forward. It was long before any of them chanced to look up towards the throne on the hill; at last, when the road was crowded, and no gaps between this group and that, it happened to a horseman to look up, and to stop the ones that rode with him; and to them all to raise a great shout when they saw Pwyll. He did not stir; he remembered that he was to heed nothing. Nine of them broke from the crowd, and came hurrying up the hillside; the whole multitude stopping and watching. "Lord," said the nine; "it is an army out of Morganwg; and no pleasure in the world with them but to burn, and raid, and work injury, and harry, and destroy."
"And not the guise nor seeming of mortals with them," said one. "Stern and proud and terrible as the Gods they are; and seven cities there burnt to the ground with them."
They related it to him in confusion; it had never happened to him to behold fear on the faces of any of his people before; not even on the least and least noble of them. They besought him to go with them; there would be no true hosting except by the king. He made them no answer; considering within himself that they would be children of Illusion and Phantasy, and persuading himself of it; since the Cymry were unacquainted with the nature of fear, at that time. But he saw the great crowd below watching; clear it was that wonder and sorrow were growing upon them. When had it happened that a prince of the Cymry had been reluctant at the hour of the hosting, or had given no answer to those who might desire to be led? The nine went back, and he saw them give the news of his silence to the people. A little girl broke out into wailing; one of the women turned on her, fiercely, it might be said, and shook her till there was little breath in her body. The whole crowd began to move forward again; the men with an aspect of sullenness on them; the women wailing or quarreling among themselves. Never had he either seen or heard the like of this among the Dimetians; and yet. . . . The memory of it afflicted his mind all day, like flies about the kine in the meadow, on the hottest morning in July.
They passed, and the road became empty again; and now he could see the army that was coming against Dyfed. The valley began to fill with such a host that he had never seen nor dreamed of the like of it since his life began. Thousands of chariots, bright and lofty, long-scythed, made of brass, came streaming along the road; innumerable warriors covered the hillsides; proud battle-bards in advance, with loud-stringed, ringing, martial harps, and with noble and exalted utterance of vocal song, and that thunderous with the desire for war. It was a strange guise for the men of Llwyd, thought he. The gray sky was beginning to bloom into pale primrose in the west, when the foremost of them came to the foot of Gorsedd Arberth. He saw a queen at their head, of unparalleled warlike dignity. She rode in a chariot that seemed to be quickened with immortal flame; and for scythes, long sprays of scarlet and golden flame budding and shooting from the axles of its wheels. Somberly majestic, darkly commanding was her aspect; the head of her long, potent, living spear was a darkly glowing carmine flame. About her proud, dark, unbending brow the wan air quivered into radiance like a fierce, empurpled sunset after storm. Her car stopped at the foot of the Gorsedd. She turned towards the standard-bearer that rode at her right, and pointed with her spear towards the hilltop. He leaped down from his horse, and shook out the folds of his beautiful flag, and vaulted lightly over the stile, and came swiftly striding up the hill.
It had never happened to Pwyll to behold so bright and splendid a banner as the one he was bearing. The dragon on it was flame-red, and much more than flame-red in color; it was brighter and prouder and more vehement than all the flame in the world. It seemed to be rather a living, curving, rearing, beautiful Winged One, than any semblance painted upon silk. Proud were its arching, glinting, wavering neck, its sweeping, lambent wings, its long, lithe, well-poised, terrible tail; as for its eyes, they gleamed and were living; they gave light upon light. The whole hillside glowed with ruddy and golden and scarlet glory from it. Whoever might look upon it would be filled with heroic strength, and with pure, unsullied manhood, and with the intense desire to have hosts out before him, and to be opposing multitudes single-handed, and to be reaping the flower of the warriors of the world.
As for Pwyll himself, at the sight of it his soul strained towards the field of conflict. Nothing would have brought him joy, or pleasure, or any delight in the world, except to ride out without aid against that whole vast army. "An evil pleasure were this," he thought; and took his gaze away from the banner. He remembered clearly, with that, the behests and desires of Rhianon, and to be holding the hill against Ab Cilcoed until the sun went from the sky.
"The greeting of heaven and of man to you, Pwyll Pen Annwn," said the herald. He was a tall man, fair-haired, glorious of face and form; his voice was such that whoever might hear it, would take delight in him, and would desire his companionship, so cheerful and pleasant it was. He got no more answer, than as if he had spoken to the wind.
"It is the War-red War-Queen against the Island of the Mighty," he said. "Courteously she greets you, desiring conflict at your hands. From Cent to Gwent, and between Gwent and Dyfed, she has met no such warfare as would please her; and it would be a cause of reproach and sorrow with her, and the bringing about of pining away, if she were to leave this island without tasting fighting."
Pwyll looked out westward in silence. The clouds were wan and primrose-colored there; the sun would be near his setting behind them; but they were concealing whether he had yet set or not set. "It will be better to wait," thought Pwyll. "Subtle are the devices of this Ab Cilcoed," thought he.
"I marvel that there should be silence," said the herald. "The queen has heard of the fame of the Dimetians; and that their king was not one to choose peace when war might be offered. She sends you the privilege of battle-breaking princes." (No one might claim that privilege for himself, by reason of modesty; if he claimed it he would be unworthy of it.) "Come you down into the roadway, and she will set her champions against you, one after the other, until such time as the way may be clear for her to go forward. As for the hosting of the Dimetians, she herself will send forward heralds to hasten it."
"It is all a trick of Llwyd ab Cilcoed," thought Pwyll. "Exceedingly skilful is he truly, in devising plans, and in proffering temptations, and they the most desirable in the world. Clearly he will not be able to pass, while I may remain here upon the throne." Talking to him was not more profitable than talking to the wind would have been, at that time.
"Discourteous is this," said the herald; "in my deed to God, discourteous it is truly. I marvel that the like of it should be found among the Cymry." He turned, and went quickly down towards the road.
Then Pwyll saw the queen call the bannerman upon her left; and he, too, dismounted, and shook out the folds of his flag, and began to make his way towards the top of the hill. A great sadness came over Pwyll at that. North and east and south, he saw the far farms and white, quiet homesteads charred and ruined, or bursting up into a red brilliance of flame. Fields where the young wheat had been greener than the beryl stone; where it had rippled in long, whitening waves under the wind in the morning, he saw now trampled down and wholly laid waste. Like bees at the honey-taking, like wasps in the fruit season when their nests may be invaded, the remembrance of the shame and anger of the country people when they passed from before him in the morning, and he without having heeded them, swarmed enangered about his mind, bitterly stinging, the cause of grief. Then his eyes were taken with the herald's flag, so that he could see nothing else. Sorrow, and disgust, and hatred, and loathing flowed into his heart at the sight of the heavy burning menace of the dragon on it. Blood-red it was; with sluggish, world-encumbering coils; the like of it had never been exposed upon the free winds of the Island of the Mighty. On the black cloth of the banner its despicable eyes gleamed and glanced cruelly, its length and bulk quivered; its long, merciless jaws were slavered with a foam of smoke and blood and flame. Whoever might look on it would be smitten with fear and grief, and with mourning for all that might have fallen in war, of those that had been dear to him since the world began. Looking at it, it seemed to Pwyll marvelous that any one should be found to take pleasure in warfare. The memory of the burning farms and the waste of the land afflicted him; a sadness hard to be endured. Most of all he thought of the sorrow of widows, and their desolation, and of the Dimetians unhosted, and of the shame and anger of the people that went from him unanswered in the morning.
Fiercely proud, and with vehement anger the herald strode towards him. He was a tall, dark man; of huge limbs, of features shapeless and brutal; no one would desire either his friendship or his love. As to his voice, it would be the frightening of maidens, and the sorrow of little children to hear the like of it; even the best word in the world from him would be ill hearing. It was a marvel to Pwyll that such a one should ever have been sent upon an embassy, even by the men of Uffern and their princes.
"Come down," said the herald; "come down, if the woman in the city yonder has not ruined you. If there were an unspoilt man here, he would not wait for the second message."
Pwyll made no answer, and desired to make none. "Insult is better than courtesy, from the like of him," thought he.
"Will you stir and come down before you hear it?" said the herald. "Even for the timorous and the cowardly, it will be a worse message than the first."
Pwyll looked out towards the west; the sun was still hidden behind clouds; if not gone down, very near the going. "I will run no risks," he thought. "There are the behests of Rhianon to consider."
"Here is the message then," said the herald. "The queen will lay Dyfed waste, and leave nothing alive within your borders, between the Tywi and the Teifi and the sea. As for you, she will stay while you mount, and speed forth, and ride to the head of the valley; and after, it will be well if you are able to escape from her hunting."
"Rhianon spoke truly," thought Pwyll. "It is not easy to withstand these subtle devices. If night would only come, to give me sure news of the sun's setting —"
"Blows will be better than words, when it comes to awakening the craven." He struck Pwyll on the forehead with the flag-spear, so that blood flowed; and worse than the blood-flowing was the flapping of the folds of the flag in his face. The touch of them filled him with sudden sickness and loathing, so that the sweat broke from him, and his whole frame trembled. It passed, and a cold wind blew down upon him, body and soul; the air was alive with whisperings and threatenings of evil; the whole hostility of unfathomed Abred seemed to have gathered there. Even Blodwen ran to him, shivering and whinnying in her terror; and she tugged at his cloak with her teeth; for the first time since she was foaled, the desire for flight overtook her. Before his own vision the picture of Arberth rose up, and a longing for it; indeed, a longing for the whole of the rest of the world; it seemed clean and lacking corruption, lacking some cold, corrupting evil that crowded about him there on Gorsedd Arberth. "Little this Ab Cilcoed knows concerning the customs of the Cymry, and precedent among kings, and the courtesies of war," thought he; stroking Blodwen's neck, to put courage into her. "Our place is here, thine and mine," he thought; and without words she understood him.
"Wilt thou go, fool?" cried the herald. Pwyll was as far as ever from stirring or making answer. Then the other turned, and went back swiftly to the queen; and Pwyll saw the third of her warriors sent forth by her, and ascending the hillside towards the throne.
"Pwyll Pen Annwn," said that one: "time it is for you to be considering prudent wisdom."
Pwyll made no answer.
"Over-strong are the enchantments; no one would prevent the coming in of the armies. The message that is sent to you is this: Escape you quickly while you may."
Pwyll made no answer.
"Since you heed not that message, heed this secret one of my own," said the other: "out of regard for your fame is this spoken — Neither by watching here, nor by indiscriminate warfare in the roadway, will there be keeping out yonder armies; yet there might be saving Dyfed, were the counsel that I shall give you to be followed."
Pwyll made no answer.
"The hosts will go forward as soon as I shall have returned to them. But if there were a warrior here that had trust in the strength of his limbs, and in the firmness of his soul, and in his magnanimity and heroic might, he would go down and meet them in the road, and call for the one who is the chief of his enemies; and if he made combat with that one and slew him, it might well be that the whole army would obey him afterwards. It would not be impossible for you to accomplish that."
"Go back to the one that sent you," said Pwyll. "Well known to me are the machinations of Ab Cilcoed. The army cannot go forward beyond this."
"Unwise is this. Out of friendship and esteem the counsel is given. It will be seen whether the army can go forward or not."
With that he turned, and made his way down the hillside. Pwyll looked westward; surely the sun would be at his setting, or even well past it, by now. It was impossible to see, by reason of the gathering of clouds there. "It might be as he said," thought he; "undoubtedly these enchantments are powerful. Furthermore it would be the best service for the Immortals, were one to destroy this prince out of Uffern." He called Blodwen, and took the bridle in his hand as he watched. "There may be praise and renown and glory for thee and for me, out of this," he said; "even if the watching has been in vain." He saw the one that had counseled him speak to the queen; and saw her turn, and give orders to her captains. He heard the battle-trumpets sound, and saw the host move forward. He watched eagerly until it was certain that they were moving, until the foremost of them had passed. Then he said: "Indeed, I made little of the warnings of Rhianon; I spoke to the herald, and that will have empowered them to do this." Exultation and delight filled him, that now he should be striking blows, and not suffering contumely in silence. To horseback with him, and away in a thunder of hoofs down the western slope of the hill. "By heaven," he thought, "fighting may serve, even if the spells and wisdom of Rhianon were not strong enough." He laughed out loud, and proudly raised his warshout. "Fighting is a thousand times a better diversion than watching," thought he. "It will not be said that the Dimetians were without a victorious protector."
"Oh man," cried the queen, "what unwisdom has taken you? For what reason have you left the throne on Gorsedd Arberth?"
"For the sake of fighting have I left it," said he. "That I may save this land from you, and from your guiles and machinations and enchantments. Not easily shall any one out of Uffern make his entry into Dyfed with armies. Let the son of Cilcoed come forward, and as many as he may desire with him."
She pointed with her spear to the head of the Gorsedd. "Yes," she said; "he has come."
Pwyll looked up. There was a man standing before the throne there, and his two arms raised towards the sky. A black cloud blown up out of the east came down over the Gorsedd, hiding the throne and the one that held it; then it blew out over the whole heaven, covering Dyfed from the sky. Westward, before its oncoming, there was a little cloudless space on the sky-edge; there Pwyll saw the last gleam of the sun's rim, as it went down over the brink of the world.
"It is the army of Llwyd ab Cilcoed," said the queen. It seemed to Pwyll Pen Annwn that he had never known the nature of sorrow until then.
"Who art thou, O princess, that hast made this trial of me?"
"I am Malen Ruddgoch Ren," she said. "All warfare among men is entrusted to me by the Immortals."
"For what reason is Dyfed harried by thy hosts? For what reason are the homesteads burned? Might not the trial have been made of me, and disgrace and dishonor imposed, without working this injury against the Dimetians?"
"It was dreams and enchantment," said she. "The homesteads are not burned; the herds have not been harried. None of the Dimetians have fled before me. I have other needs for my men, than to be harrying the people of this island. Dreams and imaginings have troubled thee."
With that she turned to her host, lifting her spear, and a great, sad call was blown from her trumpets, and men and horses and battle-cars, they all rose up into the air, and were carried in a streaming pomp of scarlet and golden cloud over the mountains westward. Pwyll knew that a second time trial had been made of him by the Gods, and that the second time he had failed to carry out the behests of the Daughter of Hefeydd.
He rode up to the head of the Gorsedd, seeking the man that had brought in the armies of Llwyd; but could find no one. Then he went back sorrowfully into Arberth.
In the feast that night, there was silence and lack of ease with every one; even the song of the Birds of Rhianon, the two that were remaining of them, was without joy. In the midst of it there came a clap of thunder, and a shaking of the casements, and a sudden waning of the light of the torches. When they burned up again, it was clear to every one that half the delight of his life had left him. There were no magical birds among the rafters. Aden Fwynach had fallen down into the lap of Rhianon; but make what search they might, there was no sign of Aden Lonach the Beautiful to be found anywhere. In sorrow the feasting came to an end.
"I knew that it would not have been easy to succeed," said Rhianon. "The desire of his life had overtaken Deiniol Drwg, to take his place upon the Gorsedd before sunset; and he came up behind the throne at noonday, and concealed himself there; and as soon as you went down to the War-Queen, he came forward, and met with heavy blows and violence, and empowered Ab Cilcoed to bring in his host. Deiniol Drwg he will be indeed, from this out."
"Is there any requiting you? Is there any taking steps against Llwyd?"
"No," she said. "But the third chance will be given you."
"For what reason did Malen come? For what reason are the Immortals conspiring?"
"Undoubtedly they are conspiring to bring about good," she said. "I shall never hear you speak such evil, as to accuse the Immortal Kindred."
"That is true," said Pwyll. "On me alone is the blame."
From that out there were plots and hatred being raised against Rhianon, and a growth of grumbling and unmanly ill will, such as never had been known among the Cymry, between the Tywi and the Teifi and the sea. The queen, they whispered, was no more than of the soulless races of the woods and the mountains, and her spells were luring Pwyll away from his kinghood, even from his humanity. There was no finding the source of such rumors, and no one with the daring to speak them aloud; much less could any one be found who would raise up armies against her. Yet before the year was out, it was clear to every one that there would be few faithful left in Dyfed, and few retaining the magnanimous manhood of the Cymry; beyond, indeed, those hundred chief warriors that had been with Pwyll Pen Annwn in the Country of the Immortals.
III. THE MACHINATIONS OF CERIDWEN FERCH HU, AND THE FALLING OF THE SORROW OF THE DIMETIANS
A year and a day after the Hosting of the Armies of Malen Ruddgoch Ren in the Valley of Gorsedd Arberth, the son of Pwyll and Rhianon was born. It was easy to see that he was of a line of kings and Gods, even then. Beautiful was the long, golden hair of him, newborn baby as he was; beautiful were his proud, June-blue, tearless eyes. There was not a more princely-aspected child living; even in the Isle of the Mighty; even in those days. As for a name for him, Rhianon gave him the name of Pryderi. She took her own fillet of golden braid, and fastened it for a belt about his flaxen swaddling-clothes; she took a thread of gold, and threaded her own golden ring on it, and tied it round his neck for the torque of his sovereignty. She had had the ring inscribed in the coelbren characters with this inscription: Bydd i ti ddychwelyd; There shall be a returning for thee. She called Pwyll to her. "Is it your desire to requite the Dimetians?" said she.
"It is known to you that it is my desire, and more than my desire."
"It may be accomplished, though not easily. If any one were to guard Gorsedd Arberth this day, Llwyd ab Cilcoed would lose a great part of his power."
"It will be the sorrow of my life to leave you. So bitter is the enmity of the Dimetians towards you, that it is not known whether they would not rise and harm you, if I were not here for your protection."
"I know that their enmity is bitter; I know well how they have been deceived. Yet Pendaran Dyfed and Gwawl ab Clud and the teulu will be enough protection for me. As for you, rise not up from the throne on the Gorsedd until the dawn of morning, or there will be no staying the falling of many sorrows."
"It is the third time," said he, sighing. "If I were not to obey you now, I should lose you. Better with me would be losing life."
They brought Blodwen to him, saddled, and he rode forward sorrowfully through the rain; his mind full of anxiety concerning the hatred of the Dimetians, and the peril of Rhianon and Pryderi; and of wonder that there should be need for watching on such a day as that. He came to the head of the Valley of Gorsedd Arberth. On the left side of the road there was a little, white-washed cottage there; it drifted in through his musings that he would have seen no cottage there before. Passing, he had a glimpse of a great cauldron steaming over the fire in the cottage, and a wrinkled crone leaning over and stirring it; and of an old countryman that was standing and talking with her. The crone might have been as old as the Owl of Cwm Cawlwyd; three forests might have grown and died since she was born. As for the countryman, Pwyll would have seen him somewhere, he thought; but it was not known to him where or when. He heeded them little as he rode forward.
He came to the head of the hill, and dismounted; that was an hour before noon. At first he was for leaving the mare to graze where she would, as before; then, for sending her back to Arberth, and being wholly alone on the hill. "Blodwen fach," said he; "it will be best for thee to seek the stable." She put down her white nose sadly, nuzzling his hands. He lifted her beautiful head, and kissed her between the eyes: "Yes, yes," he said; "it will be better for thee to leave me now." He remembered how he had mounted her the year before, to ride down against the host he thought was Llwyd's. She stood there in sorrow for a moment; but it had never happened to her to disobey him. She neighed, and went down towards the road, and he saw her gallop off through the rain towards Arberth. It was hard for him not to be filled with mourning when she disappeared; it was hard for the tears to remain without falling from his eyes.
He took his place on the throne, and as he did so, his mind went back to the two that were in the cottage; and his thoughts were filled with spoken words that it seemed to him he would have heard from them; though he had been without knowing, at the time, that he had heard anything. As for what the words were, they were these: The trial will be tonight, said the one. Shamrock, mistletoe, vervain and nettles; they will all be needed in the Cauldron, if there is no failing. And again, in answer to that: Shamrock, mistletoe, vervain and nettles; nettles and nettles, nettles and nettles; nothing has been forgotten that may be needed. And again: When will it be ready? — and: By midnight it will be ready; much more will it be ready by dawn. Until noon there was no driving that conversation out of his mind.
The slow, soft rain was falling, and gray mists came down over the mountains, and filled the valley; by noon they were in a ring about him, and no seeing for his eyes beyond the level ground on the hilltop. It would have been an hour after midday, or more than that, when suddenly he heard a footstep, and Ceredig Call Cwmteifi stepped out of the mist. One moment, and Pwyll was alone; the next, and there was Ceredig standing before him. No sound of hoofbeats had come up from the road; there had been no sound, until that last footstep, of any one ascending the hill.
"Lord," said Ceredig — if Ceredig it was — "Pendaran Dyfed sent me. Barely would you have been a mile beyond the gates of the city, when the men of Arberth rose up against the queen. Beyond that, Madog and Deiniol and Catwg and Gwylltyn have come in with an army, and the men of thy teulu are at great labor defending the palace. It will be the worst of evils if you do not return."
Pwyll remembered the unfathomable machinations of the Immortal Kindred, and did not stir or seem to heed. In a little while the other went as silently and suddenly as he had come.
An hour passed, or maybe more than an hour, and the southwest wind rose riotously, and drove away the mists; the slant, cold rain fell beating and driving against Pwyll, stinging his face; and no cessation from it. He heard a call from the road, and saw a man dismount there, and vault over the stile, and come hurrying up the hillside. Einion Arth Cennen he was, or had the guise of Einion; than whom, except Pendaran himself, and Ceredig Cwmteifi, there would be hardly a better man in the teulu. Full of sorrow and anxiety was his face as he came.
If the first news had been bad, the second was much worse. Over fifty of the teulu, he said, had been slain, and Pendaran Dyfed with them; it was Rhianon herself that had sent him, praying her lord would return. Pwyll looked at him, and saw that his mantle was not wet, and his helmet barely spotted with the rain. "Ah," he thought; "subtle are the devices of the Immortals in the hour of making trial."
"I must hasten back," said Einion; "no one can be spared. Woe is me for the princess, on account of this silence and reluctance in returning." Pwyll watched him go, without having stirred to heed, or breathed to answer him; but his grief and anxiety were not without their increasing, with what he had heard.
An hour would have passed after that again, when he heard the beating of eager hoofs along the road, and saw a horseman riding furiously from the head of the valley. "It will be Meurig Mwyn of Bronwydd," he thought, "or one of the Immortals in the guise of Meurig." (Few among the men of the teulu were better than Meurig.) In a little while he was at the hilltop. Although Ceredig had stepped so suddenly out of the mist, and although the mantle of Einion had been unmarked with rain, there was no doubt of the riding that this man had made, and no doubt that he had passed through as much rain as would have fallen between that and Arberth. Beyond that, he opened his cloak, and beneath it sheltering was a bird that had the whole likeness of the last left of the Singers of Peace.
"The queen sent her for a token," said Meurig (if Meurig it was). Then he gave Pwyll the message. Rhianon had sent him; at the time of his leaving Arberth, there were no more than a score of the teulu left alive. They had made a truce with the Dimetians until he should return with news concerning Pwyll. For here is what the Dimetians were saying: that the king had been enspelled by Rhianon, and was lost, by that time, in some dim region out of the world. "Unless you come back now," said he; "undoubtedly they will destroy the queen." The twenty that remained for her protection, he said, would never last until nightfall, against the thousands that opposed them.
Bad was the news indeed; but here is what was worse: the one that had the guise of Aden Fwynach (or it might have been Aden Fwynach herself; there was no knowing at that time) flew to the back of the throne, and perched there, and raised up such a music of lamentation as it had never fallen on Pwyll to hear until then; as he listened to it, the entire sorrow of the world drifted down bitterly and drearily upon his mind. All that he had been hearing, it seemed to him, might well be true. There were the machinations of the Immortals indeed, and the promise he had given to Rhianon; and yet, here was word from herself bidding him forsake the watching, and come. And all this concerning the uprising of the people was no more than what was to be looked for; when he came away in the morning, he had known the peril of it. Then, "By heaven," thought he, "she too is of the Immortal Kindred; she would not fear the Dimetians." He turned his eyes and mind away from the messenger, and got a little peace binding his soul down to the watching. It was not long before the man that had been speaking to him went his way. But the bird stayed there, and did not cease from her singing; and if ever he might forget the watching for a moment, or his complete trust in the power of the queen, the song flowed in upon him like the spring-tide in the estuary, and the froth and the foam of it grief and anxiety, sorrow and doubt and weariness of spirit.
At the end of another hour, or a little more than that, he saw ten men riding along the road from Arberth; he heard their laughter as they came. Madog and Deiniol, Catwg and Gwylltyn were there; and the six that were with them, although Dimetians, had become but little better than themselves. Before they reached the hilltop, the bird flew from the throne; he saw one of them loose an arrow at her, but the arrow missed its mark.
"Lord," said one of the Dimetians, "if you desire to save the life of the woman you made queen, it will be well for you to return quickly with us."
Pwyll made him no answer.
"Lord," said another of them, "it is said that the enchantress has put spells upon you; if it be true that she has, the Dimetians will destroy her to avenge you. We have come here to learn whether it is true or not."
Pwyll made him no answer.
Then Deiniol Drwg said: "You see how it is with him. The spells are on him, or he would answer."
"If the spells are on him now," said Gwylltyn Gwaethaoll, "they will not always be on him. If ye will take my counsel, his head should be carried with us into Arberth; then would he never have vengeance upon us for the loss of his wife."
"Let a better trial be made to arouse him," said one of the Dimetians — it was Yniol Ystwyth, and he was a man that would never do anything unless a thousand had done it before him. "The like of killing one's own lord has not been heard of among the people of this island."
Catwg Gwaeth laughed. "Yes, yes," he said: "I will make the trial." He threw back his cloak, revealing that which was beneath it. "Lord," said he; "if it is in your power to break the spells, save the life of this child."
Pwyll Pen Annwn did not bow his head; he did not cover his face with his hands. Proud was his aspect, and he gazing out over the valley, without appearance of hearing or heeding them. There should be no failure with him this time. But there was no hindering his vision from what it saw. The child had the guise of his son Pryderi; no one that had seen it would not have known. There was the golden fillet bound about its swaddling-clothes, Rhianon's fillet; there was the golden thread round its neck, and Rhianon's ring tied to it. There was the beauty of golden hair, and the eyes with sea-blueness in them. It stretched out its baby arms to him, laughing and fearless; would he not know his son by that? How was he not to believe that which he saw? He knew well how they hated him, and how they hated the queen; he knew their nature. . . .
He heard the baby laughter turn into one sharp, wailing cry. The whole sorrow of the world was multiplied upon him; more bitterly piercing was the sound than anything he had known during his life. It took nothing from his grief that he remembered the machinations of the Immortals making trial of him. He heard clearly the laughter of Catwg, and Gwylltyn, and Deiniol; he heard Yniol and the Dimetians groan. But there should be no failing from him, this third time.
"And now," said Gwylltyn, "where the child is gone, it would be folly not to send its father also."
Six of them answered: "He was our lord at one time."
He did not turn or bow his head; his eyes did not quiver from their gazing out over the valley. The bitterness of the trial would be over for him. He would desire no better meeting with the Margan that greets the dead, than to come to her from obeying the behests of Rhianon. Proudly he looked forth, not heeding them, expecting the stroke of liberation; were he free, and his sword drawn, they would none of them long be living men. Without turning he saw Gwylltyn draw, and rush towards him . . . and Madog strike up Gwylltyn's blade with his own at the moment of its falling.
"Stop," said the Crintach; "stop you now, and consider caution. There is Teyrnion Twrf Fliant, and there is the Crowned King in London. Even the King of Tara in Ireland was his friend. Not one of us would escape, if harm befell him."
"Whoever it might be he was," said Catwg, "it would be desirable to destroy him, if it were not for caution. It will be easier for us to defend ourselves against him, than against the whole of the Island of the Mighty and Ireland."
"That is true," said they; "it will be better to leave him." Pwyll heard their hoof-beats along the road, and their laughter and quarreling as they went. Then the bird Aden Fwynach — if it were she indeed — flew back to her perch, and began her singing again; it was ten times more mournful than at first. Like slowly-drifting snowflakes in the dusk, her cold, piercing, grievous notes floated in upon his soul. Sorrow grew and grew upon him, as the day grew wan towards evening. He had obeyed indeed; there was no accusing him of weakness or faltering. But it was unknown to him whether he had done well to obey, or whether he had done worse than ill. Doubt came down on him, drop by drop, note by note with the chill, lonely music. There was Pryderi; there was the fate of Rhianon herself; there was the whole sorrow that would fall on the Dimetians. Would it not have been better, and would it not have been better to have disobeyed? Dusk fell; dimly he could see what seemed to be the slain form of the child where they had thrown it. He did not rise; he did not stir from the throne.
The gray, wet gloom deepened; the wanness of evening ebbed into darkness. Swift and cold and slanting the raindrops beat upon him; shrill and desolate was the wailing of the wind; dark was the night, rainswept, with never the gleam of a star. Beyond this gloom were the Immortals; he had obeyed them; it should not be said that he accused them. Let them raise up truth and phantasy against him, which they would; what should be stable in the Islands of the Mighty, unless the Bright Ones could find princes upon whom to depend? Phantasy, indeed, it might all have been — the three warriors, and then Madog and his men . . . and the cry of the child Pryderi. Only, less painful in his heart would have been the poisoned steel, than the memory of the baby laughter, the sudden wailing cry. He could hear it in the notes of Aden Fwynach, more bitter, more poignant, more coldly mournful always. Seven times he drove her from the throne; but she only circled above his head, screaming, and returned. It appeared to him that it would not have been phantasy; that it would none of it have been phantasy. His son would have been slain before his eyes. His kingship had withered away; the wars that were waiting him would be joyless, and his own land out before him for destroying. And ah, Rhianon, Rhianon!
In Pen Gannion he had prepared this; and when the armies of Malen were hosted in the valley there: who should be accused, except himself? As for the queen, wisdom and compassion would wane from the Island of the Mighty; from such a world as this, she could but proudly pass to her own realm. So grief rose about his being, like the tides of the sea about a rock on the shore; like the tides of a gray sea, about the rocks of a barren, sunless shore. What hope he had had that all might have been trial and illusion, was covered away from his vision, as the sea-wave hides the sky from the drowning. Now he would be half angry that he should have made such a promise to Rhianon, leaving her on the day her son was born; now he would be half angry that he should have been bound to keep it, holding himself away in peace on the hilltop when such wars were raging in the city. Darker was his mind than the night; more bitter his hopelessness than the bitter wind. Through the rain and the riot of wind and the storm of his thoughts, the slow, ghostly bird-music fell about him, wan, piercing, bitterly grievous.
A sound of galloping came up from the road, and of chariot wheels; they stopped at the foot of the hill. Some one with a lantern came hurrying towards him; it was Gwawl ab Clud, or had the guise of Gwawl. "Lord," said he; "the princess is here, and the Dimetians of Madog are making pursuit of her. She entreats you that you will not abandon her to her foes."
He started from the throne, almost, when those words were out on the air of the night. But . . . remembrance gleamed up palely in his mind. He had promised; he had been warned; the Immortals already had made marvelous trials of him. With a groan he stayed himself; indeed to God he would bide there until the dawn.
"Lord," said Gwawl (if it was Gwawl); "listen to the galloping of the horses of the pursuers."
From far off along the road, already he could hear dimly the beating of innumerable hoofs, that grew louder and louder and nearer always.
"Lord," said Gwawl, very quietly, and the slow tears falling from the two eyes of him; "for the sake of the Daughter of Hefeydd Hen, and the warfare you waged when you won her from me."
He knew Gwawl; he knew there was no one loftier of soul than he was. He could not doubt that it was he was speaking. Yet he maintained his silence; he did not stir from the throne.
Then Gwawl turned, and bowed his head, and mourned; Pwyll heard the sobs shaking him. "Better if she had gone with me at first," said Gwawl; "this world is not fit for the Immortals. Ah Rhianon, Rhianon," he mourned; "you the pride and jewel of the Gods; did I not foretell that sorrow would come? It would have been better if you had taken the queenhood I desired that you should take; it is not I that would have been deaf when you called." So Pwyll heard him mourning as he departed, as he made his way back to the one that was waiting in the chariot in the road. Well known to Pwyll was the son of Clud; well honored by him was his royal and lofty soul. It was not possible that the messenger should have been any one but Gwawl; it was not possible that Gwawl should have spoken falsely or without wisdom. . . . He sat there as he had sat since noon, unstirring, proud of mien, his gaze fixed on the darkness beyond the valley.
Then he heard the voice of Rhianon herself; it was impossible to doubt that it was she who was speaking. The words came up to him from the road; but even then he did not stir. "Bring you me to him," she was saying; "it will be better for me to die if he will not help me." Two men came, carrying lanterns, and supporting the queen between them. In the little glare of the lanterns he saw her; her face whiter than ivory; and she kneeling before him. He felt her arms about his knees, and heard her prayers and beseechings; it was impossible for him to doubt that she was his own wife.
"Lord," she said; "I could not foresee this when I sent you forth to watch this morning. The harm was done before this; watching would have no power to prevent it. Llwyd ab Cilcoed is stronger than the Gods. My immortality is gone since the child was born; if you do not come with me there will be no saving either you or me."
The tears fell from his eyes faster than the mist-drops from the poplar leaves in autumn. "Ah, that this grief should have fallen on you!" he said. "Ah, that the child Pryderi should have been slain!"
With that her wailing rose on the night; he felt the dropping of her innumerable tears. "He is slain, and ah, he is slain!" she cried; "the little frame that was prepared for a God! The blue eyes and the golden hair! I could not foresee, and ah, I could not foresee!" she cried. "All my magic is withered since the morning."
He had lifted her from the ground, and stood supporting her. Indeed some change and loss of divinity had befallen her, who wrung from him pity now, where before she had had his reverence.
"Come," she said, "swift must be our going; it is possible that I may yet bring you to the Country of the Immortals."
They went down the hillside together, the men following them. "Take you your place in the chariot," said he; "I myself will wait here for the Dimetians."
"It would be foolishness," said Gwawl ab Clud. "Not scores they will be, but thousands."
"That will be better," said Pwyll.
Then the queen said: "If you desired to requite me for what has befallen through Llwyd, you would come in the chariot." With that he took his place beside her. Sorrow and shame were heavy upon him as he took it.
The wind died down and the rain stopped as they moved forward. It happened to him to turn, and look back towards Gorsedd Arberth. The moon had risen dimly, and was shining through a thin place of clouds above the throne. He saw a shadow rise, and heard the rush of wings; it swept out darkening on the wan moonlight, and was lost beyond the hills towards Arberth. Doubt came upon him, like a sudden cold wind.
"What shadow was that?" said he.
"It was Llwyd ab Cilcoed passing towards the palace," said the one at his side. The chariot was moving more swiftly than anything can move without wings; it was unknown to Pwyll whether it was along the roadway or through the air they were moving.
"For what reason will he be passing there?" said he. "All the injury in the world he has already worked us; it will not be possible for him to do more."
"It will be possible," said she. "Passing towards the stealing of Pryderi he is. He will be free to steal him while the watchers are asleep." There was no sound or trace of wailing in her voice; but loftiness; but the age of the world; but lone, illimitable wisdom.
He turned towards her. The sorrow in his mind was driven forth by wonder and confusion. Unknown now, unfamiliar to him wholly, was the veiled August One at his side.
"Pryderi is slain," said he. "There will be no watchers . . .?"
"Not so," she answered. "The teulu under Pendaran were watching in the palace, and their hundred wives were guarding the cradle of Pryderi. But sleep came upon every eye in Dyfed, as soon as there was a rising up from watching on the throne on yonder hill."
"Sleep came not upon Rhianon; sleep never would have come upon Rhianon."
"Rhianon is not there," she said. "In the Wyddfa with Hu Gadarn is her place this night."
There is no wind that blows in March that can move as swiftly as that chariot was moving.
"For the sake of the whole race and kindred of the Cymry, turn the chariot towards Arberth."
"There is going forward, but never going back. It would be impossible to turn the chariot."
Before him he could see the backs of the horses, rippling and glimmering wanly in the darkness. Their long manes, as they tossed their heads or strained them forward, were faintly shining like the midnight wave. Huger they were than the hugest stallions. No sound of hoof-beats rose from their passaging.
"Who art thou, princess, that hast made this trial of me?"
A strange light shone from her; she stood in the chariot, extreme in her radiant majesty. The trees of the woodland would not have concealed her; she could not have hidden among the mountains; grander was her beauty than the gleam of the sunset from among thunder-clouds. At one moment she seemed more ancient than the forest; at another, younger than the apple-bloom in April, than the young sedge by the streamside in the early spring. As for the chariot, Pwyll could see then that it was moving through the playground of the lightnings.
"I am Ceridwen, the Daughter of Hu," she said. "I am Ceridwen, foster-mother of the Immortals, and queen of all the green things in the world."
With that, name and memory and all strength and thought ebbed from him; in a dreamless slumber he passed with her to her own palace in the heart of the world.
IV. THE COUNCILS OF THE IMMORTALS, AND THE DECLARATION OF THE FATES OF THE PRINCES OF DYFED
That night the Gods were gathered again in the palace of Hu Gadarn in the Wyddfa. Considering the Fates of the Princes of Dyfed they were: the fate of Pwyll Pen Annwn, and the fate of Pryderi fab Pwyll, and the fate of Rhianon Ren the daughter of Hefeydd.
"Difficult it is, this raising up of Immortals," said Hu the Mighty. "Difficult it is, this raising up of auxiliar godhood out of the ranks of men. Declare what success you had, Lord Brother, when you made the trial of him in the Forge of Pen Gannion."
"Such success as it was," said Gofannon ab Don. "Sorrowful success. He withstood the temptation of the spears, although they were proud, peerless, pointed piercers. He withstood the temptation of the shields, although there would be few among ourselves that would not desire them. But the swords were more desirable than he could withstand. He chose a sword from Pen Gannion, rather than to be watching on the Gorsedd."
"What will be written on the web, on account of this?" said Hu the Mighty. "Let the Lady of the Silver Wheel, Arianrhod Ren, Don's daughter, declare the fate."
Arianrhod Ren stood forth, and turned her Wheel in the heavens. The threads are the deeds and meditations of men, and the spun web is their destiny.
"It is failure," she said. "Undoubtedly the desiring of such a gift would be the hindering of immortality."
The Gods sighed, and betook themselves to silence, and to their musings, while Arianrhod considered that which had been spun. "But it would not be irrevocable," said she, when it had become clear to her. "Another trial of him would be made."
"Another trial would be made, and it was made," said Hu Gadarn. "What success was with you, Malen Ren, when you hosted your armies in the valley?"
"It is known," said she. "He withstood pride, when the privilege of the Great Battlebreakers was offered to him. He withstood fear, when I poured it upon him from all the quarters of the world. But I caused it to seem to him that watching was in vain, and that he might save the land by prowess, when the wisdom of the one that sent him had failed. Very subtly I labored to accomplish this, and when I had accomplished it, he came down from the Gorsedd."
"Let the Wheel be turned," said the Mighty One; "and let the fate be made known."
Arianrhod turned her Wheel. "It is failure," said she. "It is a gulf between him and immortality."
"Make known to the Immortals whether it would be irrevocable or not irrevocable," said the Mighty One. "Make it known, Arianrhod Ren, if it please you."
She turned her Wheel in the heavens, and read the writing on the web. "Three trials for the Cymro," said she. "There would be a third trial for Pwyll Pen Annwn; though hard it would be for him to obtain success in it."
Thereupon Ceridwen came into the hall, and with her Gwydion the son of Don, the Initiator. The Gods rose up, and gave them the greeting of heaven and man; and had the two greetings from them in return.
"Let it be known from what labor or from what happenings you come," said Hu the Mighty.
"From the third trial of Pwyll Pen Annwn we come," said Ceridwen. "The third trial is accomplished."
"Make known what success was with you," said the Mighty One. "Eagerly the Gods desire to know this."
"Woe is me, on account of the success," said she. "Here is what happened to me," she said. "I tried him not by pride, but by pity. I used spells that heretofore have been unacquainted with failure, and he withstood them. Then I took the last spell of all, according to fate, and law, and custom, and precedent, and necessity; and exercised the whole of my power. I went to him in the guise of Rhianon Ren; few but the Immortals would not have been deceived. His vision became less than clear. His purpose became less than all-dominant. His heart became less than unshakable. Sorrow and tears overtook him. He came down from the Gorsedd; he quitted the throne of watching."
The Gods shook their heads sadly and slowly, musing within themselves. "Woe is me, on account of the success," they murmured.
"Let the Lady of the Doniaid declare the fate," said Hu the Mighty.
Arianrhod turned her Wheel.
"The Immortals shed not tears," said she. "This also is failure."
"It is known to me already that the Cauldron was prepared for him," said Hu Gadarn. "It is known to me already that he would have been in the Cauldron. Relate to us, Ceridwen, whatever may have befallen."
(Very wonderful is Pair Dadeni, the Cauldron of Ceridwen Ren ferch Hu. Whosoever may be put into it, if he be dead, he will return to life; and whatever name he may have had before, he will have a new name after.)
"The Cauldron was prepared," said Ceridwen. "Shamrock and mistletoe, vervain and nettles: nothing was lacking that should have been boiling in it. I brought him through the air from Gorsedd Arberth to the House of the Cauldron; sleep and oblivion were on him while I brought him. As for what befell then, it would be well for Gwydion ab Don to relate it."
Thereupon arose Gwydion the son of Don, the Initiator. It was he that initiated Brython, and Eurwys and Euron, and Euron and Modron; indeed, Five Battalions of the Mighty Wise. He had the aspect of a bard, and of such a one that, if he were singing, the winds of heaven would grow calm and listen to his verses; and if he were relating a story, it might well happen to the imperial stars themselves that they would lean down from their thrones to heed him, and that for as much as a thousand ages, if he desired it; and in oblivion of their splendor until the story should have been told. He had an alder wand in his hand, studded with nails of Welsh gold; with that he would be working wonders whenever it pleased him.
"Nine regal and handsome youths were watching beside the Cauldron," said he; "and I myself was the tenth at the head of them. As soon as Pwyll Pen Annwn rose up from the throne on Gorsedd Arberth, the liquid boiled over and was wasted, and there was no saving it. I kept the three Drops of Wisdom; but it was clear to me that they would not be for Pwyll. Then I filled the vessel again, and put in it what herbs there were, so that it should be ready for the chieftain, when the Queen of the World might bring him. If it should please the Mighty One, let him direct for whom the drops shall be."
"Of those who have need of them among the Cymry of the Island of the Mighty," said Hu Gadarn, "who will be the best man, and the one that is nearest to deserving them?"
"There is Teyrnion Twrf Fliant," said Ceridwen. "It would be hard to find his equal, even if one had the vision of Drem the son of Dremidyd."
(When the gnat arose in the morning with the sun, Drem could see it from Gelliwic in Cornwall as far off as Pen Blathaon in North Britain.)
"Arianrhod Ren," said Hu Gadarn; "make known, if it please you, the deserts of the king of Gwent."
Thereupon Arianrhod threaded upon her wheel the deeds and meditations of Teyrnion Twrf Fliant, king of Gwent Iscoed, and turned the wheel and span. "Undoubtedly he will deserve the Three Drops," said she.
"Let them be taken to Caerlleon on Usk," said the Mighty One; "let them be dropped upon the lips of the King Twrf Fliant while he is asleep."
(As to what came of that dropping, it will be made clear in the Story of Rhianon and Pryderi fab Pwyll.)
"What herbs were in the Cauldron, when the chieftain was bathed in it?" said Hu Gadarn.
"Vervain and nettles," said Gwydion. "There were no herbs gathered, beyond those two."
"Let the Lady of the Doniaid declare the fate," said Hu.
Arianrhod turned her Wheel. "Vervain of oblivion; nettles of sorrow," said she; "sorrow and oblivion will the fate be. It is not given him to become one of us."
The Gods sighed. "It is not given him," they said.
"As for the Queen, the Daughter of Hefeydd Hen," said the Mighty One, "let it not concern her; it is not she that will be without consolation and reward. She shall have her mountain palace here in Wales; either Moel Siabod in its majesty, or one of the peaks of Yr Eifl, or a mountain by the Tywi in the land she has loved. It shall be requited to her; she shall sway the Brython; in all things she shall be the equal of the Gods of the Cymry throughout these islands. She shall forget the one for whom she toiled and suffered; his destinies shall be nothing to her from this out."
The Immortals nodded. "Less would be unfitting," they said.
Then Rhianon rose up. Her body was slumbering in the palace at Arberth at that time; but she herself was with the Gods in the Wyddfa at council.
"It shall not be so," she said. "O Mighty One, I marvel at this. O Clan of Hu Gadarn, is it thus that you would obtain new gods from among men? I will not suffer this man to be forgotten. By Ceugant and the Lonely One that dwells in it, Pwyll Pen Annwn shall be Immortal yet."
"As much as that we could not ask from you," said Hu. "The Gods, truly, are not without consideration and gratitude. It is your due that you should have the Dragon Kinship of these Islands, godhood and honor among the Gods of the Cymry. It would be unfitting if we were to ask more from the one that came from afar to help us, or if we were to grant her less. All that the Gods could ask of you, you have accomplished, and even more. Take you the reward that is offered."
"No," said she; "I will take much more. What I will take will be Immortality for Pwyll Pen Annwn, even if it be not until the head and end of a hundred ages. Were the price of what is offered me," said she, "that he should be forgotten, and should forfeit godhood, I would take lives of oblivion instead. I will not suffer that your whole effort to raise up immortality in him shall be wasted. You shall have two Gods from this labor of mine; Pwyll Pen Annwn and Pryderi fab Pwyll. Beyond that, I shall remain upon earth for the protection of the Dimetians."
"Pwyll Pen Annwn gave them over to Ab Cilcoed. Neither you nor any of us could drive him out."
"I could hold the land for my lord Pwyll," said she. "I could prevent the triumph of Ab Cilcoed in a thousand ways; and undoubtedly I will prevent it."
"Let the Daughter of Don Ren turn the Wheel," said the Mighty One. "Let the fate of the Princess be made known."
Arianrhod turned the Wheel.
"It is known what fate has been offered," said she. "If she will accept it, there is this for her: no one shall hold more honor among us than she will. As for her son Pryderi, no harm will overtake him; he shall be fostered by the best of the Cymry. Even it might be that what came to Pwyll Pen Annwn, will come to him also; and it might be that he would succeed where his father failed, and that he will become immortal.
"But if such a fate as that be not accepted, there is this other. Her son they shall accuse her of slaying; it is known already that Ab Cilcoed has stolen him; and there will be no defending her against this charge. For years and years she shall do penance for it, sitting from dawn to sunset at the palace gate at Arberth, making known to any that may ask on what accusation she is condemned to do penance there. She shall have no consolation from the Three Singers of Peace. She shall have no news of Pryderi until he is a grown man; and even then it is not known whether she will have news of him. It is not known whether she will ever have news of Pwyll Pen Annwn. Hardly will it be given her to make any stand against her enemies; hardly will it be given her to protect her friends from them. Blind she will be also. And thus it will remain with her, unless Pryderi or Pwyll should save her, until she shall choose to forgo that fate, and take the fate Hu Gadarn offered her.
"Yet if she should undertake this, truly, it may be that Pwyll Pen Annwn will be saved by her. It may be that he will come into the Cauldron again, and find the four herbs there; even that he will obtain his immortality in the end. But it is not known; it will be in accordance with what deeds and meditations I may get from him for the spinning from this out. If there should be any imperfection from him, there will be no saving him."
"It pities us, Rhianon," said the Gods. "It pities us that you should suffer such a fate as this."
"It pities you?" said she. "Never was it unforeknown to me. I came down out of my father's kingdom for the sake of Pwyll Pen Annwn, and for the sake of the Cymry of the Island of the Mighty, and for the sake of raising up new godhood, as is known to you. I see little evil in this. If the fate were worse, I would take it; and I would not forgo it, while it might still be possible to awaken godhood in this chieftain. Are your hosts so triumphant on the borders of space, that there is no need for new warriors? Pwyll Pen Annwn would be the best of auxiliars; on the day of conflict he would be equal to an army. I know how lofty is his soul — he the impetuous as a fire in a chimney. Undoubtedly I will take this fate."
Hu the Mighty rose up from his throne. "Let it be so," said he.
Then Gwydion arose. He was mantled about in a glamor of gold and green; unstable, jewel-luminous mists floated about him; his hair had the magnificence of the peacock above his head. "Lady," said he; "as for me, if there is any bringing Pwyll Pen Annwn to the Cauldron, I will accomplish it; it will be an honor to me to do this."
Then the Primitive Bards came down from their shining thrones; in flaming, wavering, wonderful beauty they came, and bowed themselves down before the Lady Rhianon: Plenydd, Alawn and Gwron. "If the Prince, the Son of Don Ren, should succeed in this," said they, "and adversity should still befall Pwyll Pen Annwn, we will not rest day or night until we have requited him; and we will labor for him, and be beside him, as far as it may be permitted to us; and this we will do also for Pryderi fab Pwyll."
Then said Hu the Mighty: "Listen now, you Immortals. If it should happen to Pwyll Pen Annwn to succeed at last, this promise is made to him: much greater shall be his throne and his pomp among us here, than it would have been if he had come among us now. And much greater shall be the throne and the pomp of the Princess also."
* * * * *
The dawn came, and Rhianon returned to her sleeping body in the palace of Arberth, and awoke. Aden Fwynach had disappeared; Pryderi had been stolen. The whole fate that Arianrhod had foretold for her, came upon her. The eyesight waned from her beautiful eyes; her beautiful hair became white. Day by day she took her place at dawn at the palace gate, doing her penance. When they had accused her of destroying the child, she had been at no pains to answer them. Year after year went by. Day by day the teulu waited upon her, and protected her, and she instructed them in the secrets of wisdom. There was nothing so beautiful in beautiful Dyfed, as the old, blind, beautiful queen that sat at the gate in her majesty and mournful dignity. Day by day, Three came down that she did not see and had no news of: Plenydd, Alawn and Gwron; surely they were the most beautiful, the most beloved of all the Immortals. Night after night in her sleep she saw Arianrhod Ren clothed in the glory of her godhood.
"Ah, darling, darling of the Clan of Hu," said Arianrhod; "are you willing yet to take the better fate?"
"I have taken it," said Rhianon. "It is sorrow now, and blindness, and long waiting; and to save Pwyll Pen Annwn in the end."
That is the end of the first part of the Fates of the Princes of Dyfed; namely, the Story of Pwyll and Rhianon. On account of its relating what befell Pwyll on Gorsedd Arberth it is also called The Book of the Three Trials of Pwyll.
The Story of Rhianon and Pryderi